You can imagine the brief at Ukranian Developers 4A Studios to its artistic directors: “We have to include a lap dance in our game!”. No small feat for whoever is involved in creating a sexy CGI dance, but as important as any thing else…right. In a game dominated by male characters, using sex appeal to charm the mostly male audience seems like a neat idea, except. The moments in games when using sex appeal or titillation are often lost in translation due to doll like character models and splashes of tongue in cheek humor which kills any serious aspect to having these elements. Especially if they simply fail miserably at what they are representing.
So, it appears that 4A Studios interjected a fine moment within their Metro Last Light game to show others how it’s supposed to be done. Minus the loud music, cheesy grins, and overacted voice overs. Players – who will likely always check the female NPCs in games, and who have trodden the paths many times before – are treated to an optional intimate moment with a semi nude female. There’s nothing as gratuitous as a sex scene, but something far more tame and artistic in the process despite what it depicts on a basic level.
In Metro last Light, there’s a sunken underbelly of a former world, surviving, and living under the shadows of its former glories which players get to explore. It’s a serious game with plenty at stake within the plot to continually drive the player deeper into the maddening post apocalyptic Glukhovsky drama. So when players are presented with a little more connection with those NPCs who don’t shoot on sight, the transition makes for some light relief from the wasteland rages, dank and smelly tunnels and murderous shadows with flashlights. Players are treated to a moment to watch and observe if they interact with one of the female dancers. A button press away leaves players losing coin, but getting a display of the handiwork from the person who took charge and made the lap dance happen!
But in context of the game, and how there’s nothing offensive about the scene offers a lot more appreciation of how time was spent using motion captured performers and rendering detailed character models to get the desired effect. The question has to be asked during the creation process that can the direction be considered contemporary art? Think about the change of canvas to suit our times, where the digital image is equally as credible as the pieces on more traditional surfaces. The artist still has to create, but also animate, devote time and energies into the creative process. Why spend resources on creating such imagery in the first place? There’s no humor, no wailing guitars and muffled groans. It’s a simple presentation of a semi nude female – except she moves realistically.
We have to look towards the traditional art world to see the answers, as it’s clear there’s perfection in capturing the nude female form throughout our history. Great painters of times past captured the essence of the female nude on many surfaces and these revered images are now the fragments of bygone revolutions and tales of great and little meaning. The mere act of recreation of our most basic desires and appreciations is exemplified throughout our documented past, present and probable future. And it’s perhaps this reality, which leads the way forwards for artistic expression across popular mediums such as video games.
The dancer in Metro Last Light becomes a beacon for escapism from the nightmares in the game. It’s a brief meandering, away to pander to more primeval senses. The details in the model, the attention to make the moment feel right for the character and player make this an exceptional contrast in the game, offering a very “seedy” but at the same time, well crafted and pleasant moment of artistic expression. Yes, this has to be considered contemporary art.